A fire that originated around a smart meter has left two Mission families homeless and their possessions destroyed, but BC Hydro and the fire chief say the blaze was not caused by the meter.
Burdock Street’s Trish Regan says the fire started June 15, a day after the new meter was installed.
She was at work when the installer came to the home, and Trish’s daughter Kylina said the technician tried to install it three different ways before he left.
“In terms of the fire, we can definitely confirm the origin of the fire. The burn patterns all originate where the housing for the smart meter sits. And quite clearly it’s not the smart meter,” said Mission Fire/Rescue Chief Ian Fitzpatrick.
Fiona Taylor, BC Hydro project officer for the Smart Metering program, said the company replaces 35,000-45,000 meters every year of both old and smart meters, and have found what is termed “meter base failures” in 0.05 per cent of cases, which hydro claims is the cause of the Mission fire.
The base is a homeowner asset usually installed by the original developer of the home to which an electricity company can connect, she explained.
“We really feel for the customer. I mean, that’s a difficult situation, it’s pretty horrific, so we certainly appreciate that this is a stressful time,” said Taylor.
Keith Anderson, BC Hydro’s director of deployment of the Smart Metering program, said the BC Hydro worker who installed the meter is considered a quality and experienced technician. He said the technician checked for any faulty wiring or other problems during installation but found none.
Of the 1.35 million meters BC Hydro has installed, Anderson said technicians have discovered about 1,000 meter base failures. Of those, 11 were considered “significant electrical incidents,” and three resulted in smoke or fires, however the technician was on the scene during each of those times.
Anderson said this is the first time a fire has started from a meter base failure after a smart meter install.
The night of the fire, Trish was sleeping and Kylina was watching TV when she thought she heard firecrackers. She went outside and saw a fire creeping up the wall.
Trish tried to put the fire out with a garden hose, but the heat was too intense.
The fire spread from the wall to the cars and the gasoline further fueled the flames. She wanted to move her cars from the side of the house but by that time electrical wires had fallen over the vehicles. She lost a Ford F-150, Jeep Grand Cherokee and a 1976 Land Cruiser as a result. The fire then moved to the garage and the attic, and eventually spread to her neighbours’ home, occupied by five people.
At the height of the inferno, the flames were 65 feet high and spectators could feel the heat from 14 Avenue.
The blow is doubly difficult for Trish, who lost her husband Kenneth two-and-a-half years ago in a car accident. She’s been living on the life insurance ever since, with her 20-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son, while making extra money as a house and office cleaner. But her equipment was destroyed and she is now unable to work.
Trish is now renting a house for $2,500 a month that’s being paid for by her insurance company.
“I’ve been waiting patiently for BC Hydro to contact me and they haven’t.”
Hydro’s Taylor said an employee checked to ensure the families were safe and put up in a hotel, but have had to wait for the investigation to end before contacting anyone.
“All we can do is provide facts and provide the expertise that comes from our day jobs, which is providing safe and secure electricity to our customers,” said Taylor.
A trust fund has been set up for the Regan family at Canada Trust. You can contact the family through the “Regan Family Fire Support” page on Facebook.